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Thomas Bauman

(b Stettin [now Szczecin], Nov 15, 1735; d Berlin, Nov 10, 1799). German playwright. He fled his family business at the age of 18 and eventually joined an itinerant theatrical company. He was an indifferent actor but won considerable popularity as a playwright. In May 1772 he and his actress wife Charlotte, then both with the Seyler company in Weimar, saw the first German melodrama, Anton Schweitzer’s setting (now lost) of Rousseau’s Pygmalion, in translation. Using H. W. von Gerstenberg’s tragic cantata Ariadne auf Naxos as a model, Brandes prepared a dramatic scene in the new genre to display Charlotte’s abilities. Schweitzer temporized in setting Brandes’s text, and after the troupe moved to Gotha it was given to the court Kapellmeister there, Georg Benda. The première of Ariadne auf Naxos on 27 January 1775 was a resounding success, mainly because of Benda’s music and Charlotte’s acting. Brandes wrote a second melodrama for his wife while he was theatrical director at Dresden in ...

Article

Olive Baldwin and Thelma Wilson

(b London, Feb 4, 1723; d London, Aug 4, 1792). English dramatist . ‘Gentleman Johnny’ Burgoyne, the English general forced to surrender to the Americans at Saratoga (1777), was the librettist of William Jackson’s only successful opera, The Lord of the Manor (1780), in the preface to which he advocated English ‘musical comedy’. Garrick’s staging of his first dramatic piece, ...

Article

Richard Taruskin

[née Sophie Auguste Fredericke von Anhalt-Zerbst]

(b Stettin [now Szczecin], 21 April/May 2, 1729; d Tsarskoye Selo, 6/Nov 17, 1796). Empress of Russia. She acceded in 1762 following a palace coup against her husband Peter III, and became known as ‘Catherine the Great’. Continuing the policy of her predecessors, the empresses Anna (reigned 1730–40) and Elizabeth (1741–61), she maintained a court opera theatre staffed by Italians, personally patronizing Cimarosa, Paisiello, Galuppi and Sarti, as well as her special favourite, the italianized Spaniard Martín y Soler. She also patronized comic opera in the vernacular and encouraged native talent to apply itself to this genre. Among the talents she nurtured was her own very modest one as a dramatist, which she exercised, as she put it to a friend, for the sake of relaxation and distraction from affairs of state. With the assistance of two literary secretaries, Ivan Yelagin and Alexander Khrapovitsky, she wrote three volumes of Russian plays and a fourth in French....

Article

(b Neuchâtel, 23orNov 24, 1733; d Paris, July 15, 1815). Swiss writer on music. A journey to Italy in the early 1750s was formative in shaping his taste for Italian opera. He then moved to Paris, where he frequented literary-philosophical circles, and in 1763–5 followed Rousseau to Switzerland. Escherny’s Fragments sur la musique (Paris, 1809), which also appeared as part of a larger work, the Mélanges de littérature (Paris, 1811), contains miscellaneous criticism; much of the writing is anecdotal (albeit vivid and picturesque), but his musical acumen cannot be doubted. Like Chastellux he favoured the principles of bel canto singing; he thought that music for the theatre should set this in proper relief.

Escherny allows Gluck a prodigious gift for powerful and awe-inspiring effects of orchestration and harmony in ‘le genre sombre et terrible’, but denies him that of melody. He claimed to have met Gluck in Vienna as early as ...

Article

Philip Weller

(b Neuchâtel; fl 1770s). Swiss writer on music. Like Escherny he moved to Paris, where he frequented the literary and intellectual circles of the Encyclopedists and philosophes. In 1772 he published his long Traité du mélodrame; its immediate occasion was the rebuttal of views expressed in François-Jean Marquis de Chastellux’s Essai. The Traité is a sustained apology for the more complex orchestral style of Bohemian instrumental composers as the musical basis for an effective dramaturgy. He appreciated the obvious plastic beauty of Hasse in individual arias (for instance ‘Non ha ragione, ingrato’ in Didone abbandonata) and admired the inventiveness of motifs in Italian opera, but thought that the hedonistic regularity of a pure singing-based style allowed insufficient contrast to sustain interest and maintain dramatic power. He regarded Philidor’s orchestral invention and vivid instrumentation as a model of its kind, and the Traité is in this sense a eulogy of Philidor: Garcin made specific bar-by-bar observations on his style with a precision that inspires confidence in his judgment. The standard of criticism is remarkable, considering the early date; and throughout Garcin shows general musical literacy and a keen dramatic imagination....

Article

Thomas Bauman

(b Vienna, Sept 27, 1735; d Vienna, July 30, 1764). German playwright. He served as a secretary in the Viennese municipal court during his short life, and wrote a series of successful plays that developed a distinctively Viennese brand of written comedy out of local improvisatory traditions. His lone musical text, the three-act Zauberlustspiel ...

Article

(b Dresden, 1738; d Schleswig, Nov 22, 1789). German actress and writer. At the end of an unhappy childhood she took to the stage. In 1754 she married the actor Hensel, but they separated three years later. She worked with various troupes and appeared several times in Vienna. After the collapse of the Hamburg Nationaltheater, she took up with the impresario Abel Seyler in 1769, and married him three years later, by which time she was recognized as Germany’s foremost tragedienne. Lessing praised her passionate and majestic acting at Hamburg, and Benda and F. W. Gotter wrote their chilling melodrama Medea to set off her skills in 1775. At the end of her career she wrote a five-act libretto Hüon und Amande, based on Wieland’s epic poem Oberon and set by the Schleswig music director Karl Hanke in 1789. The text was adapted for Paul Wranitzky shortly thereafter by Gieseke as ...